Sandoval’s taxing situation

Victor Joecks

NPRI President Andy Matthews' thoughts on Gov. Brian Sandoval's decision to propose raising taxes in 2013:

First, let me say that I like Brian Sandoval. On the occasions I've met with him, I've found the governor to be cordial, engaging and admirably inquisitive.

And I had high hopes for his governorship. He arrived in Carson City pledging to fight tax increases, limit government spending and implement genuine reforms to Nevada's disastrous education system. On some occasions, he's followed through, and we at NPRI have applauded him when he's been right. And he's been particularly good on education reform and in his pick for Nevada's next superintendent of public instruction.

But our organizational mission, our commitment to our principles and our understanding of the implications of policy choices compel us also to point out when the governor – any governor, Republican or Democrat – is wrong. And we must do so unequivocally. This is essential, because a policy will have the same consequences whether it's passed by Republicans or Democrats.

We've been critical of Gov. Sandoval this week – and rightly so. The governor's decision to support an extension of the tax increases scheduled to sunset next year – a decision that has already drawn support from prominent Republican legislators – represents bad policy and, if implemented, will have negative consequences. Plain and simple.

The governor could have chosen a different path. He could have reiterated his own argument from 2010 that raising taxes is "the worst possible thing you can do" after a recession. He could have pointed out that Nevada's economic downturn has occurred in the aftermath of a massive government spending binge, and that it was that recklessness, not insufficient tax revenue, that caused Nevada's fiscal woes. He could have embraced cost-saving measures like those championed by NPRI as the superior solutions to our state's challenges. He could have stood with Nevada taxpayers in the fight over the future of our state.

But he didn't.

Extending a temporary tax that is set to expire is, by definition, a tax increase. Given the choice between accepting a higher tax burden on Nevada's businesses and families and fighting for a lower one, Gov. Sandoval and his political allies have chosen the former course. And if they get their way, Nevada's job creators – and job seekers – will be worse off for it.

The speculation is that Gov. Sandoval and legislative Republicans are making this move in order to "take the issue off the table" in 2013. Conceding defeat always takes the issue off the table – but only briefly, until your opponents, sensing weakness, come at you again.

I'm not naïve. I understand that politics involves trade-offs and compromises. But that's exactly why organizations like NPRI are so important, and why it's imperative that we remain firm in the midst of the ever-shifting political winds. We're beholden to no political party, no interest other than the preservation and advancement of liberty. Those who put their faith in politicians will inevitably be let down. What's important is that the free-market cause have someone willing to lead when the politicians can't, or won't.

There is, of course, still time for the governor and his allies in the Legislature to choose the right course. Statements have been issued, but no votes have yet been cast. It's not too late for each elected official who campaigned as a fiscal conservative to govern as one.

The news this week doesn't mean that this fight is over. It just means that those of us who believe in limited government and individual freedom have some real work to do in the months ahead. So let's get to it.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President